In the nineties, filmmakers like Richard Linklater and Robert Rodriguez broke through the wall that was independent cinema in order to usher in a new era of non-Hollywood content that could be seen by millions of people. Directors like Quentin Tarantino and Gus Van Sant were able to showcase their unique stories without dealing with the troubles of meddling executive producers from one of the major studios. Independent cinema became ‘cool’ for artists and college students that thought they were being smart. Most people think that independent cinema is just better than movies made by Hollywood. I often hear this quote from friends of mine.
“Oh I only watch independent films, because of their sophistication. Its definitely not like the simple films that are made by Hollywood hacks every week”.
Now imagine that with a snooty accent and you’ll get the idea.
I don’t think there is a problem with independent cinema at all, in fact most of my favorite movies come from either independent film studios or directors that risk everything they have into making a movie. I just don’t agree with people that say that just because a movie is independent, it’s automatically better.
Let me explain.
So there’s this movie called Jeff Who Lives At Home which is made by the Duplass brothers. These are independent filmmakers who make serious comedies, where they try to make you cry and awkwardly laugh at the same time. They are basically the perfect example of most modern independent filmmakers. I like their movies, I mean they made Cyrus with John C Reilly, which is a film that has the perfect mix of drama and comedy. However this movie was clichéd and it followed a lot of the basic story elements that you would find in a Hollywood coming of age comedy. The main characters are caricatures, they are not funny, and they are not unique. They are cardboard cut outs of better characters in other films. The direction is very heavy-handed, as lot of the symbols that the directors use are very obvious and overall it’s just not a very good picture.
Lets compare that to a Hollywood film like, Argo. Argo is not a perfect movie but its able to engage its audience, give a good story, and have memorable characters. This movie was made by a Hollywood director, with Hollywood actors, and Hollywood producers. It’s a pure Hollywood movie, but it’s pretty good. It’s better than Jeff Who Lives At Home. Of course it can be said that these are two completely different movies, so its unfair to compare them. Well that’s kind of true, however, whenever people talk about how independent cinema is better than Hollywood they are talking about movies that are completely different from each other.
People want to compare Safety Not Guaranteed with Transformers, which is mind boggling by the way. Those are two completely different films but people constantly say that Transformers represents the fall of cinema as a whole and Safety Not Guaranteed will bring American cinema back to prominence.
I don’t agree with either assessment because like I said earlier, they are two different kinds of movies, both of which work in their own ways. You can be intellectually challenged if you watch films like Jim Jarmusch’s Dead. Man or you can have mind-numbing fun by watching The Avengers. Both are great movies, just in their own distinct ways.
Independent Cinema is not better just because it’s without major studio interference. Just because a director may have complete creative control of a project, that doesn’t mean its going to be good. I mean, look at the Star Wars prequels. (I finally made a jab at the Star Wars prequels. My job as an internet critic is complete)
I ask that we not judge a film by its budget or affiliation with Hollywood, but we judge it based on its content. Whether it’s fun or thought provoking, cinema has the power to entertain regardless of who makes it.
So if a Hollywood movie is good, go support it. If an independent film is good, also go support it. Movies are expensive to make, so it’s good to reward the creator for entertaining you for a little bit. Either way, go see more movies.
Movies are made for everyone and can be made by anyone.